Well, you know what they say: “First game back after a long road trip is always a tough one.” It’s one of the more ridiculous-sounding cliches in hockey, but darned if it doesn’t seem to come true a lot. The Colorado Avalanche should have had no problem getting motivated for Tuesday’s game at home against the Vegas Golden Knights. This was the team that bounced them from the second round of the playoffs last spring, a team that overcame a 2-0 deficit to broom them from there.
The Avs had a day off, after a nice win in Tampa, so there could be no fatigue excuse for anything here. Yet, the Avs came out in the first period as if they had Ambien laced in their water bottles, falling behind 2-0 in the first period and only managing a Cale Makar goal from there. Final score: Vegas 3, Colorado 1.
Vegas snapped a four-game losing streak, and the Avs suffered their fourth defeat of the season, against two victories. The Avs next play in St. Louis Thursday against the 5-0 Blues.
“We were a little bit sluggish tonight. We weren’t trying to be. You never want to give up one on the power play like that. It just…shouldn’t happen,” Avs captain Gabe Landeskog said.
Indeed, the backbreaker in this game came on a short-handed Vegas goal that made it 2-0 in the first period. J.T. Compher and Makar botched a pass together, and Reilly Smith beat Darcy Kuemper on a breakaway.
The Golden Knights basically played rope-a-dope defensive hockey the rest of the way, and did job of it. While the Avs controlled the puck a lot more in the final two periods, they were mostly kept to the perimeter and Robin Lehner made the big save or two when he really needed it.
“Terrible start. We weren’t prepared to start on time,” Avs coach Bednar said. “You dig yourself a hole against a good team, you spend the rest of the night trying to scratch and claw back.”
Another turning point in the game: A five-minute major interference penalty called on Jack Johnson late in the second period. While the Avs held Vegas off the board on the ensuing long power play, the five lost minutes were an impediment to the Avs getting back in the game.
“They give him five minutes, for in-game interference….looked like it was as clean a hit as you can get,” Landeskog said. “Other than that, I have no comment.”